Jimmie Durham in 2012. Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Opinion

Steve Russell: 'Cherokee' artist tired of being pigeonholed as 'Cherokee'





Steve Russell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has been calling out race frauds for years and even garnered a mention in The New York Times as a "retired Cherokee judge" who has questioned the identity of aging artist Jimmie Durham. Despite Durham's attempts to sidestep the issue, Russell vows to keep going after "race pimps" who steal Indian identities for money:
There’s a “Cherokee” artist named Jimmie Durham showing publicly for the first time in a long time in the U.S. Durham has at various times claimed to be born to the Wolf Clan (the most numerous Cherokee clan, conveniently enough) and to have known Cherokee before he knew English.

If anybody interrogates those assertions, they get pummeled by arguments that enrollment in the Cherokee Nation, the Eastern Band, or the United Keetoowah Band is no reliable marker of Cherokee culture. That is, the response is to an assertion nobody has made.

If you are a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, you can be hammered for being too white or too black as if your color were your identity. The argument is that you’re a paper Cherokee, co-operating with fake institutions set up by the colonists to divide us.

If you identify with the Eastern Band or the UKB, then you’ve bought into blood quantum, a method introduced by the colonists to disappear Indians over time. Once more, you are—knowingly or not—playing the colonial game.

Read More on the Story:
Steve Russell: Jimmie Durham and the Race Pimps We Admire (Indian Country Media Network 7/11)

Also Read:
The Artist Jimmie Durham: A Long Time Gone, but Welcomed Back (The New York Times 3/10)

Related Stories:
Opinion: Don't be fooled by Jimmie Durham's claims of Cherokee heritage (June 26, 2017)